Thursday, January 11, 2007

Reuniting with Dave

I’m really glad I went to meet Dave in Nairobi. It was great to see him and hug him, though the excitement wore off a bit after waiting at the airport for over an hour. We did a lot of visiting after arriving in the village. Dave did great and people were happy to see him, especially my family, research assistants and churches. They’ve all been hearing about him since 2002 and my research assistants had been hearing how many days (in fractions even) for the last 2 weeks. This time, we did tell people we were coming, so we ate a TON, including yummy bananas, cocoa (which was great because I was very tired of tea!), fresh roasted maize and peanuts, chapatis and much more. Yum.

We also went to visit an old mission hospital that is just reopening after being shut down for a while due to mismanagement and pilfering. It used to be the best hospital in western Kenya and it was sad to hear it all in the past tense. Getting there was certainly an adventure. The day before, it rained very hard (it was so muddy that we couldn’t even push the bicycle home down the road.) So when we woke up in the morning to more rain, we weren’t sure we would make it – the road to the hospital gets VERY muddy as well. But we did. The person taking us is very determined and we knew it was our only chance to go. It was somewhere between 7 and 10km each way with heavy, muddy shoes. We were definitely tired at the end of the day (I couldn’t lift my legs without hurting) but it was worth it. I’m glad Dave was able to see it and I was glad to see it again myself. They definitely don’t need a surgeon yet, but maybe in a few years :) We’ll see.

Knowing that we wouldn’t be able to visit everyone, we decided to have a come meet David and wish Sarah farewell party. At ever step in the planning, it kept getting farther and farther from what I originally envisioned and I began to think that it wasn’t worth it, but when the time came, I was so glad that we had it. I originally envisioned a kind of open house where people mill about and get food from big bowls (popcorn, peanuts, tea, etc.) and we all have a chance to talk and visit. Then my family starts talking about how I need to buy meat and chicken and cook ugali and rice. I absolutely refused that one. We decided to have soda (it’s easier and cheaper than tea for so many people), peanuts, popcorn and mandazi (a fried doughnut like thing), but they said that I had to serve food on individual plates because if we put it in bowls some people would understand but others would eat everything before everyone else arrived. Then we started discussing the program and we had to have introductions, a word from the Bible, speeches and then food. Speeches! Ack! But it turned out okay. When everyone was introducing themselves, we asked them to say how they knew me, which ended up being like mini-speeches, so that when my host dad (the emcee) asked if anyone had a short word to say, they all felt like they’d said it. Whew. That’s the part of weddings, funerals and any other community event that makes it all day instead of a few hours. It was nice. We ended up putting food in bowls on each table instead of on individual plates, which was a mistake. People ate a lot and then all of a sudden plastic bags started coming out of nowhere and anything that wasn’t eaten was carried away. So there were people in our family that went hungry because all the food was carried away. I was shocked. In some ways, that’s just the way people are – especially the old women, but even others from my family was frustrated, so it wasn’t just me and a cultural difference. Other than that, the party was great and I’m glad we did it. I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to get the peanuts and soda because of the aforementioned mud, but my great neighbor Mukabane braved the mud on his bicycle and got them all.

After Dave came, I felt like he was just there and that the 6 months hadn’t been so hard after all. Kind of like when my parents came – I felt like they’d always been there. It made it a bit more cramped in my small room and I think my family felt that I was a little more distant, but I think it was okay. The kids all had a great time with him (all of them, but especially the three little ones!) All but one of the family’s 8 kids were home, so it was a bit crazy. By the end of the week, Dave definitely appreciated the challenges in which I had been working for four and a half months.

We’re still getting to know each other again in some ways. I feel like there’s a lot I missed in the last 6 months. Mostly hearing about what happened every day and what he thought about it. There was a lot he did on his own, with me a bit from a distance – studying for and taking boards, deciding where to apply for internship and residency, debating between surgery and orthopedics at the last minute, living with his parents for a month. I just got bits and pieces. He got more from me, since I was blogging in addition to emailing and talking on the phone, but there’s just so much we each missed over 6 months. I feel like we haven’t had that much chance yet to really talk as much as I’d like since he came. In Kenya we were so busy with so many people. In Malawi, we’ve been so tired by the end of the day that we haven’t really talked much before just falling asleep. We’re trying to be more intentional now, though. Talking is a big part of what helps me feel connected to people. It’s also different to live with 3 other people and to be traveling with 6 other students most weekends. Anyway, it’s been great to have Dave back, but it is a bit of an adjustment.

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